Citibank is deploying Gimbal beacons in select Citi Smart Banking branches in Manhattan, using the beacon technology to literally help customers open doors.
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With the Bluetooth-enabled beacon attached to the bank, either outside or more likely inside, customers who download an app can gain cardless entry, using an iPhone or Apple Watch, into ATM lobbies in order to use an ATM machine after hours. The ability to open doors like this means less scrambling for a key card in inclement weather and adds a layer of security for the customer. Customers who opt in also can get location-based customized messaging.
The project is a pilot in about 10 branches in the Manhattan area. Based on its experience working with other major brands over the years, the pilots often end up expanding, but that will be up to Citibank. "I'm optimistic and encouraged based on our history," said Brian Dunphy, senior VP of business development and strategic partnerships at Gimbal. "We think financial services are ripe for engaging consumers with location and proximity services and providing more relevant experiences to them, whether it's helping them understand what services are available in a branch or tying into what affiliate merchant programs are out there. There are a lot of use cases that we know are going to be beneficial for financial services."
Of course, being a banking application, security is top of mind. The beacons don't store user information, and the beacon never repeats its ID number, so it's continually randomized and changing out.
It's still early in the Citibank pilot, but initial results sound encouraging. "This is our first foray into beacon technology," said Citibank spokeswoman Deirdre Leahy. Testing with 10 branches in Manhattan really represents a limited pilot, but "the anecdotal first feedback has been really encouraging and customers seem excited about it and our branch staff is too."
"We try to find unique and novel ways to deliver value to our customers using beacon technology," said Michael Anzola, vice president, Mobile Product Management at Citibank. In addition to currently being able to open the ATM lobby door with a mobile phone, one of those future examples is inside select branches, where Citibank has configured beacons to determine how long a customer has been waiting in line, and roughly how far in line they are in order to deliver a message to the customer who's opted in letting them know they can use a self-service terminal or ATM for wire transfers, for example, if that's what they need, without further waiting in line, according to Anzola.
Dunphy said the beacon hardware space has become crowded with different providers and hardware types, and that's great for the ecosystem and market in general because one form factor isn't going to meet all requirements. The true value is in the platform itself, and Gimbal has been developing firmware partnership deals. "We believe that in order for proximity networks to be truly pervasive and ubiquitous, they need to move beyond just battery-powered beacons and start to become embedded in other installed devices," such as LED lights, Wi-Fi access points, digital displays and drones. Gimbal supports Apple's iBeacon, as well as the versions of Eddystone that Google has come out with.
Is the beacon space more competitive in general than a year ago? "The space definitely heated up and we're excited about Google getting behind it as well because it really demonstrates that beacon technology is here to stay and that big brands and technology companies like Google are putting their muscle behind enabling the ecosystem," Dunphy said.
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